Subject: ON HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN A DEGENERATE POLITICAL ECONOMY.
6 April 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
In the second volume of his book, The Social History of Art (1958), Arnold Hauser discusses artistic developments in the period of the Renaissance (1300 - 1600), starting with early Renaissance art which was still under the influence of medieval gothic style, he attempts to examin how artistic styles evolved during the High Renaissance into mannerism (between 1520 and 1580), followed by baroque and an early version rococo art. It was in this period of dynamic change that traditional medieval collectivism was fatally weakened and unprecedented forms of artistic expression began to appear. The political economy was changing radically, and along with it ruling-class ideology and social relationships were changing, too; urban society was repeatedly thrown into termoil, with no social classes exempt from strong feelings the anxiety. The ideological hegemony of the Medieval Church was permanently fractured by the Protestant Reformation (beginning in 1517) and, later, the authoritarian Counter-Reformation led by the Vatican (beginning in 1545, with the Council of Trent) only added fuel to the growing ontological insecurities of this era. The evolution of artistic style in the works of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) and Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) reflect this deterioration of social relationships in Renaissance Italy, before the invading armies of the French; then the Spanish, aided by German mercenaries began suppressing the sources of Renaissance culutre and leaving in its place what came to be called after the late 1520s "The Age of Political Realism.” (Hauser, vol.2, pp.106-111)
According to Hauser, Niccolò Machiavell (1469-1527) had been “the first to develop the theory and the program of political realism [and] in his works is to be found the key to the whole world-outlook of mannerism, which wrestles with this idea so desperately.”
But Machiavelli did not invent “Machiavellism” –that is, the separation of political practice from Christian ideals; every petty Renaissance prince was a ready-made Machiavellian. It was merely the doctrine of politial rationalism which he was the first to formulate, and he was, at the same time, the first clear-headed advocate of the application of conscious, systematic realism to practical affairs. Machiavelli was, however, only an exponent and spokesman of his age. If his doctrine had been nothing more than the extravagant whim of a clever and cruel philosopher, it would not have had the shattering influence which it in fact had, nor would it have moved the conscience of every morally endowed person, as it in fact did. And if it had been only a matter of the political mathods of the petty Italian tyrants, his writings would certainly have caused no more excitement than the horrific stories which were spread abroad about the morals of these tyrants. Meanwhile, history produced more striking examples of realism than the crimes of the gang-leaders and the poisoners whom Machiavelli quotes as his prototype. For what else was Charles V, the patron of the Catholic Church, who threatened the life of the Holy Father and had the capital of Christiandom destroyed, if not an unscrupulous realist? And Luther, the founder of the modern people’s religion par excellence, who betrayed the common people to the overlords and made the religion of inwardness the creed of the most efficiently practical stratum of society and the one most deeply involved in the interests of the world? And Ignatius Loyola, who would have crucified Christ a second time if the teachings of the risen Lord had threatened the stability of the Church, as in Dostoevsky’s story? And any prince of the age one cares to mention, who sacrificed the welfare of his subjects to the interests of the capitalists? And was not the whole capitalistic economy in the long run simply an illustration of Machiavelli’s theory? Did it not show clearly that reality was obedient to its own stern necessity, and all mere ideas were powerless when faced with its relentless logic, and that the only alternative was to submit to or be destroyed by it?
It is scarcely possible to over-estimate the importance of Machiavelli for his contemporaries and the next few generations. The whole century was frightened, intimidated and thoroughly agitated by its encounter with the first master of exposure, the forerunner of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. One only needs to recall the English drama of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages, in which Machiavelli had become a hackneyed stage figure, the quintessence of all fraud and hypocrisy, and the proper name ‘Machiavelli’ had begun to change into the generic name of machiavelli, to realize the extent to which he engaged the human imagination. It was not the violence of the tyrants which caused the general shock and not the panegyrics of their court poets which filled the world with indignation, but the justification of their methods by a man who allowed the gospel of gentleness to stand alongside the philosophy of force, the rights of the noble alongside those of the clever, and the morality of the ‘lions’ alongside that of the ‘foxes.’ Ever since there existed rulers and masters and servants, exploiters and exploited, there also existed two different orders of morality, one for the powerful, and the other for the powerless. Machiavelli was merely the first to make men conscious of this moral dualism, and the first to attempt to justify the recognition of different standard of conduct in state affairs form those current in private life, and, above all, the recognition of the fact that the Christian moral principles of fidelity and truthfulness are not absolutely binding on the state and the prince. Machiavellism with its doctrine of dual morality had only one analogy in the history of Western man, and that was the doctrine of the ‘dual truth’ which rent the culture of the Middle Ages in twain and ushered in the age of nominalism and naturalism. There now arose in the moral world a cleft similar to that which had then arisen in the intellectual, only this time the shock was greater to the extent that more crucial values were at stake. The break was, in fact, so profound that a person familiar with any of the more important literary products of the period should be able to establish whether it was written before or after its author’s encounter with the ideas of Machiavelli. To become acquainted with him it was, incidentally, not in the least necessary to read Machiavelli’s own writings –which were, in fact, read by very few; the idea of political realism and of ‘dual morality’ was common property, and was conveyed to people by the most devious routes. Machiavelli found followers in every walk of life, though the devil’s disciples were sometimes suspected in places where they did not in fact exist at all; every liar seemed to speak the language of Machiavelli, and all sharp-wittedness was distrusted.
The Council of Trent [1545-1563] became the supreme training-ground of political realism. With sober matter-of-factness it adopted the measures which seemed best suited to fit the institutions of the Church and the principles of the faith to the conditions of demands of modern life. The intellectual leaders of the Council wanted to draw a sharp line of demarcation between orthodoxy and heresy. If secession could no longer be prevented, at any rate the further spread of the evil should be stopped. It was recognized that it was more sensible in the given circumstances to emphasize the differences than to conceal them, and to raise rather than lessen the demands made on the faithful. The victory of this standpoint meant the end of the unity of Western Christendom. But soon after the conclusion of the Tridentine deliberations, which lasted eighteen year, another change of polity followed, dictated by the sense of profound realism, which substantially mitigated the severity of the period during which the Council was sitting, especially in matters of art. There was no more need to be afraid of misunderstandings in the interpretation of orthodoxy; the order of the day was now to brighten up the gloom of militant Catholicism, to enlist the senses in the propagation of the faith, to make the forms of divine service more pleasing, and to turn the church into a resplendent and attractive centre for the whole community. These were tasks to which the baroque was first able to do justice, however; the stern decrees of the Council of Trent were still regarded as authoritative during the whole period of mannerism—but it was the same principles of systematic, sober realism which suggested in the one case the way of ascetic severity, in the other, adulation of the senses.
The convening of the Council meant the end of liberalism in the Church’s relationship to art. Art produced for Church purposes was placed under the supervision of theologians, and, especially in the case of large-scale undertakings, the painters had to keep strictly to the instructions of their spiritual advisers. (Hauser, vol.2, pp.119-121)
Rather than simply labeling mannerism as a style giving evidence to social decadence, Hauser gives a plausible explanation of its meaning in the social context of intense emotional stresses and artistic sensibilities at a time when the traditional “ruling classes” were no longer capable of ruling effectively.
The artist of the age of mannerism had lost almost everything that was able to give a foothold to the artist-craftsman of the Middle Ages and, in many respects, even to the Renaissance artist in process of emancipating himself from the thralldom of craftsmanship . . . The culture of individualism provided him with innumerable openings that were not available to the medieval artist, but it set him in a vacuum of freedom, in which he was often on the point of losing himself. In the intellectual revolution of the sixteenth century, which impelled artists to undertake a total revision of their world-view, they were unable either completely to entrust themselves to leadership coming from outside or to rely entirely on their own instincts. They were torn by force, on the one hand, and by freedom, on the other, and stood defenseless against the chaos that threatened to destroy the whole order of the intellectual world. In them we encounter for the first time the modern artist with his inward strife, his zest for life and his escapism, his traditionalism and his rebelliousness, his exhibitionistic subjectivism and the reserve with which he tries to hold back the ultimate secret of his personality. From now on the number of cranks, eccentrics, and psychopaths among artists increases from day to day. . . . Tasso dies engulfed in mental darkness. Greco sits behind curtained windows in broad daylight to see things which an artist of the Renaissance would probably not have been able to see at all, but which an artist of the Middle Ages would have been able to see, if at all, even in daylight.
A change corresponding to the general intellectual crisis occurs in the theory of art. In contrast to the naturalism . . . of the Renaissance, mannerism is the first movement to raise the epistemological question: for the first time the agreement of art with nature is felt to constitute a problem. . . . Mannerism drops the theory of art as a copying of nature; in accordance with the new doctrine, art creates not merely from nature but like nature. [It is] the manifestation of the divine in the artist's soul. . . . whence comes the agreement between the forms of the mind and the forms of reality. . . . [T]he true forms of things arise in the artist's soul as a result of his direct participation in the divine mind. . . . The naïve subject-object relationship between the artist and nature, the final result of Renaissance aesthetics, was now undone . . . .
The antagonism between conformity to rule and lack of rule, between discipline and freedom, divine objectivity and human subjectivity, which governs this doctrine, also finds expression in the transformation of the idea of the academy. The original purpose and spirit of the academies was a liberal one: they served as a means of emancipating the artist from the guild and of raising him above the level of the craftsman. The members of the academies were everywhere relieved sooner or later of the obligation of belonging to a guild and of keeping to the restrictions of the guild system. . . . In contrast to the authoritarian organization of the guilds . . . membership [to an academy] ... was an honor conferred only on independent and creative artists. A solid, many-sided cultural background was one of the indispensable preconditions of admission.(op. cit. pp.127-129)
According to Hauser, internal contradictions eventually destroyed the vitality of the Academy and eventually the authoritarianism of the guild system appeared in the academy, which not only destroyed “the social unity of the artists as a corporative body and ... split them up into different classes completely alien to one another;
it also leads to the highest of these classes identifying itself with the upper class of the public instead of with the rest of the artist fraternity. . . . An aesthetic doctrine gradually becomes predominant which not only neglects the importance of the manual element but conceals what is specific in the individual arts and tends towards a general conception of art. The promotion of the artists as a body into higher spheres of society and the participation of the upper classes in artistic life leads, though by a roundabout way, to the abolition of the autonomy of artistic techniques and to the rise of the doctrine of the fundamental homogeneity.(p.133)
The same academicism ... which on the lower level separates the artists as a body from non-artistic craftsmanship, on the higher level bridges the gap between the productive working artist and the cultured layman.(ibid.)
The 11 items below will offer CEIMSA readers the opportunity to observe for themselves what effects a failing political economy is having on contemporary social relationships in the United States, where a ruinous authoritarianism is becoming fashionable within the constraints of short-term ruling class interests.
Item A., sent to us by George Kenney, the founder of Electric Politics, is an interview with historian Dr. Timothy Messer-Kruse on the famous Haymarket Riot of Chicago, Illinois in 1886.
Item B., from Dr. Richard Wolff, is one diagnosis for the current epidemic of depression and melancholia.
Item C., from Truth Out, is an article by Anne Elizabeth Moore on the deteriorating working conditions in the Fashion Industry today.
Item D., from Jim O’Brien is a list of suggested readings from Historians Against War.
Item E. from Truth Out, is an article by Paul Krugman analyzing “Austerity’s vicious circle.”
Item F., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Robert Scheer on how the Republicans are a “sick joke.”
Item G., from Democracy Now! is coverage of the police murder of African American citizen, Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains, New York.
Item H. is live access to Live Coverage of the Occupy Wall Street Movement from Reader Supported News,
Item I., from Truth Out, is an article by Sara Jerving on the effects of the oil and gas industry on the health of Women.
Item J., from Reader Supported News, is an article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh on the role of Israeli secret service in assassinating scientists in Iran.
Item K., from Democracy Now! is coverage of Dick Cheney’s associations with convicted war criminal Viktor Bout during the Iraq War.
And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a video commentary on Machiavelli’s famous book, The Prince, with a host of capitalist ideologues displaying their own methods of understanding “political science” :
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from George Kenney :
Date: 16 March 2012
Subject: Podcast interview re the Haymarket Riot with historian Dr. Timothy Messer-Kruse.
Labor's most important holiday, International Workers' Day, May 1st, was invented to commemorate the trials following the Haymarket Riot of 1886, in Chicago. Long story short, a bomb went off at a Labor demonstration, authorities rounded up a bunch of Labor organizers, tried them, convicted them, and executed most of them. Our standard history -- accepted these days by everyone -- tells the story as if it were a complete miscarriage of justice: innocent Labor organizers were persecuted solely for their beliefs. The problem is, our standard history is wrong. Dr. Timothy Messer-Kruse, who has impeccable Left credentials, got curious when prompted by a student's question, went back to the trial transcript and reconstructed events. It turns out the Labor organizers were, in fact, operating a bomb making factory, had planned to instigate violence at Haymarket, and did so. Their trial was reasonably fair. It's an interesting story that sheds light on our preferred vision of ourselves; also one with potentially redemptive qualities if we can be content to stick with the facts. My take: violence does not pay.
As always, if you like the podcast please pass along the link.
Dr. Timothy Messer-Kruse on the Haymarket Riot of 1886
from Richard Wolff :
Date: 3 April 2012
Subject: A Diagnosis for Depression.
A Diagnosis for Depression
from Truth Out :
Date: 5 April 2012
Subject: The Fashion Industry's Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers.
About a year ago, record numbers of garment laborers in factories across Cambodia - which exports 70 percent of the garments manufactured there to the US - were reported to be suddenly and mysteriously falling to the ground, unconscious. Hundreds at a time - sometimes less, although sometimes more. Workers at many scenes reported foul smells, difficulty breathing. Halting investigations took place at select plants by various parties involved: government officials; labor unions; human rights groups; business associations; monitoring organizations; and, weirdly, the international big-name brands that sell the clothes being made.
The Fashion Industry's Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers
by Anne Elizabeth Moore
from Jim O’Brien :
Date: 5 April 2012
Subject: Suggested readings from Historians Against War.
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
By Justin Logan, The American Conservative, posted April 4
"Israel's Experts Mum on Iran to Support Bibi's Bluff"
By Gareth Porter, antiwar.com, posted April 3
"The Drone Boom"
By Vijay Prashad, CounterPunch.org, posted April 2
The author teaches history and international studies at Trinity College
"The Race for What's Left" (essay-review of Michael Klare's book of the same name)
By Lawrence S. Wittner, CounterPunch.org, posted April 2
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany
"The Phases of War"
By Phyllis Bennis, ZNet, posted April 1
"Empires Then and Now"
By Paul Craig Roberts, OpEd News, posted March 27
"Totalitarian Systems Always Begin by Rewriting the Law"
By Chris Hedges, TruthDig.org, posted March 26
"Speaking Truth to Power"
By William Astore, NationofChange.org, posted March 22
"Top Ten Lessons of the Iraq War"
By Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, posted March 20
"How Joseph Stalin Invented 'American Exceptionalism'"
By Terrence M. McCoy, The Atlantic, posted March 15
Suggestions for these lists can be sent to email@example.com. Thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, and Sam Lowe for suggesting articles that are included in the above list.
from Truth Out :
Date: 5 April 2012
Subject: Austerity’s Vicious Circle.
One of the key arguments made by the proponents of fiscal austerity, even in a deeply depressed economy, has involved a sort of macroeconomic version of Pascal's wager. Yes, the more open-minded admit, borrowing costs are very low in the United States and Britain. Yes, the arithmetic suggests that cutting spending now will do very little to improve long-run fiscal prospects. But you never know - maybe the last trillion dollars of spending will be what causes a sudden loss of market confidence, turning you into Greeeeeeece.
Beware of Austerity's Vicious Circle
by Paul Krugman
from Reader Supported News :
Date: 15 March 2012
Subject: The Republicans are a sick joke….
Scheer writes: "The Republicans are a sick joke, and their narrow ideological stupidity has left rational voters no choice in the coming presidential election but Barack Obama. With Ron Paul out of it and warmongering hedge fund hustler Mitt Romney the likely Republican nominee, the GOP has defined itself indelibly as the party of moneyed greed and unfettered imperialism."
Obama By Default
by Robert Scheer
From Democracy Now! :
Date: 6 April 2012
Subject: The police murder of African American citizen, Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains, New York.
Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez has obtained a photograph of White Plains Police Officer Anthony Carelli, the officer alleged to have fired the two shots that killed Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., the 68-year-old former Marine whose medical alert button accidentally summoned police to his apartment last November. The police union has blasted the release of the officer’s name, saying he deserves the right to a fair and impartial inquiry. Chamberlain’s son said he agrees, but notes that the White Plains police failed to grant his father the same opportunity.
New Details Emerge over Police Fatal Shooting of Elderly Ex-Marine Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.
from Reader Supported News :
Date: 15 March 2012
Subject: Occupy Wall Street, Live Coverage.
The seed planted on September 17th in New York City has grown into a national and international movement. Occupy Wall Street has branched out with hundreds of groups organizing Occupy protests in their own communities. Reader Supported News highlights some of the more significant actions from around the country here. Share this page with your friends and associates and check back often for the latest developments.
Live Coverage: Occupy Worldwide
Reader Supported News Special Coverage
from Truth Out :
Date: 5 April 2012
Subject: Women and the Environment.
Little has been reported on the ways in which fracking may have unique impacts on women. Chemicals used in fracking have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive health problems and there have been reports of rises in crimes against women in some fracking 'boom' towns, which have attracted itinerant workers with few ties to the community.
The Fracking Frenzy's Impact on Women
by Sara Jerving
from Reader Supported News :
Date: 6 April 2012
Subject: Assassinations of scientists by Israeli secret service, Mossad.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service.
Our Men in Iran?
by Seymour Hersh
From Democracy Now! :
Date: 6 April 2012
Subject: Dick Cheney’s associations with convicted war criminal Viktor Bout during the Iraq War.
Notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death," has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorism. Our guest, former United Nations arms trafficking investigator Kathi Lynn Austin, says the case allowed American companies to avoid exposure of their collusion with with the U.S. government and private companies linked to Dick Cheney during the Iraq war, even after United Nations sanctions against him in 2004. Authorities say Viktor Bout was involved in trafficking arms to dictators and stoking conflicts in Africa, South America and the Middle East. He has also been accused of furnishing weapons to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and achieved particular notoriety for selling arms in Rwanda in 1998, just four years after the Rwandan genocide.
"Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout Sentenced to 25 Years; Trial Ignored His Ties to U.S., Dick Cheney